Mandy is a single mom and avid Mint user.
After a financially devastating divorce, Mandy used Mint to pay off her credit cards in a year — Go, Mandy!
Read on to see why white t-shirts are a measurement of her financial success and how her kids make sure she stays on budget.
Thank you, Mandy!
Tell us a little bit about your life.
I’m a single mom of two in my late 30′s who works as an Executive Assistant by day and a frantic freelance writer by night. My kids and I live in a tiny house in one of the most expensive areas in the country.
Do you tend to be a saver, a spender, or are you finance-agnostic?
I grew up in a family who didn’t really think of money as something to be saved. It makes sense, then, when I moved out and started my life as an adult, I was a spender.
When my ex husband and I moved in together, he illustrated my financial habits using white t-shirts.
Moving into a tiny apartment, it became abundantly clear I had a bad habit of buying white t-shirts. He put them all on the bed and even I was shocked when we counted 37.
He assigned each a low-ball dollar figure of $10 and for the first time I had a visual of where my money was going.
I’m proud to say I currently own only two white t-shirts.
What were your money challenges before using Mint regularly?
Before using Mint regularly, I had maxed out my credit cards and cashed out my stocks in order to make ends meet during the first six or seven months post separation.
When did you first start using Mint and what prompted you to give it a try?
I played around with Mint while married. Who doesn’t love a good pie chart?
At the time, I used it as a tool to track our spending and to give us a loose household budget. My ex and I were making a solid income and the idea of a strict budget was still somewhat vague.
When we separated, so did our finances. I found myself using credit cards to get through each month and when I finally found a job that would support the kids and I, I realized I needed help figuring out how to get those credit card balances down.
Mint helped me track my spending, see where I could cut and see where I was being overly optimistic.
Those handy pie charts helped me pay off all my credit cards and get to a not-scary financial place within a year.
Do you use the Web app, the tablet app or the smartphone app (or all three)?
I use the smartphone app to access my Mint account quickly.
When I’m standing in Target and trying to decide if I have it in my budget to buy a new pair of curtains, it’s helpful to discover the answer in a few quick taps.
The answer, by the way, is almost always no.
What was your number one financial goal you hoped Mint would help you achieve?
After finding myself in a scary financial situation with two children depending on me, I set the goal of being able to support us without child support or outside help.
I didn’t want to rely on another person to get us through the month.
By using Mint as my personal financial advisor, I was able to reach that goal. While my ex pays child support, that money can go straight to the kids’ saving accounts or pay for their activities.
How do you make Mint work for you?
I set alerts for most of my budget items. I get a message on my phone and in my email box if I go over any of my budgets.
Every month, I spend a solid half hour going through each expenditure and check to see where I might have done better.
Are there any tips or “secret tricks” for the app that you use often?
No, but if someone else has some…
What feature of Mint do you use most?
I rely on the budget updates each month.
When I first started using Mint regularly, I made it a game to keep my “dining out”, “grocery shopping” and “gas” budgets “in the green”.
At the end of the month, I would move the budget a little lower and see if I could save a little more.
I also love how easy it is to adjust your budgets to take into account differences in each month’s expenses.
How did Mint change your or your loved ones’ buying/saving behavior (or did it)?
After a year of living frugally, I had the idea we could continue to do so and use some of that savings towards vacations.
I showed my three and six year olds the pie charts, the budget lines and included them in the plan to save.
I want to make sure they will be more prepared for financial challenges than I was and I want them to understand how to budget from an early age.
Now, when we go to the grocery store or Target, instead of asking for things, my children are part of the discussion on whether we need an item or just want it.
More times than not, they’re the ones who very wisely remind me of our goals.
How did Mint help ease your financial challenges?
Using Mint, I was able to eliminate my credit card debt and make my credit cards work for me. It helped me find lower interest rates, cards with mileage points, and where I could find savings.
What was the most surprising or coolest benefit of using Mint?
Last August, my children and I flew to Boston where we spent a week traveling the historic area.
By using Mint Goals, we were able to save enough money for plane tickets, hotel rooms, dinners out, and the all important souvenirs.
Best of all, I’ve taught my children the importance of saving money and the lesson I learned so many years ago – sometimes you only need one white t-shirt.
How would you describe Mint using one word (or ten)?
When I think of Mint, I think of a bespeckled accountant with slicked back hair who very wisely sets me on the right path.
As long as I listen to him, I know I can’t go wrong.
Mandy Dawson is the creator of In Mandyland, an (almost) daily blog recording her adventures in juggling a full-time job and two active children.